Just three ventilators to cope with Covid-19 in Central African Republic

Published 31. Mar 2020
Just three ventilators are available to help save the lives of people who contract coronavirus in Central African Republic, a country of almost five million people. The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) is calling on the international community to support countries, which are gravely unprepared to cope with the spread of the virus.

“Covid-19 has the potential to tear through the Central African Republic at lightning spread if the country doesn’t get the support it needs to adequately protect itself against the virus. Three ventilators in a country of five million people is setting the country up for catastrophe,” warned David Manan, Norwegian Refugee Council Country Director in the Central African Republic (CAR).

“And this could be replicated across the world’s poorest countries, where health infrastructure is virtually non-existent,’ he added.

Western nations are scaling up to procure ventilators where they are in short supply. Countries like the United Kingdom and the United States are working around the clock to secure tens of thousands of ventilators to respond to the pandemic.

“When rich nations are in panic mode stating that thousands of ventilators will not be enough, it just brings to light how poorer nations like the Central African Republic don’t stand a chance in the fight against Covid-19,” said Manan.

Six cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in CAR so far. While no local transmission has been reported, there is a risk of the virus going undetected due to a lack of tests in the country.

The Central African Republic is one of the least prepared countries to face the global outbreak, with 2.2 million people already needing health assistance. Close to 700,000 people are displaced from their homes with half living in densely populated camps with poor access to water, sanitation or hygiene. Without a scale-up of support from the international community, an outbreak in camps could be catastrophic.

Humanitarian needs look set to worsen due to Covid-19 as the country depends heavily on outside assistance. For example, 70 per cent of health services are provided by aid organisations. A suspension of international commercial and cargo flights could severely impact aid organisations’ capacity to respond. It is crucial to maintain the necessary infrastructure to allow supplies and personnel into the country to ensure the continuation of humanitarian operations.